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WandaVision Breaking the Fourth Wall

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WandaVision Fumbles Through “Breaking the Fourth Wall”

WandaVision’s many dissonant tones collide in its strangest, most inconsistent episode yet.

WandaVision Episdoe 7 Review

What was once a cogent, thoughtful deconstruction of classic sitcom archetypes and traditions in the early episodes of WandaVision has given way to “Breaking the Fourth Wall”, as laborious and frustrating as any of the show’s seven episodes so far. Each week, WandaVision‘s joys are being crushed by the sheer gravity of the MCU – and “Breaking the Fourth Wall” just about comes apart at the seams from that pressure, fracturing itself into a strange contraption of dissonant scenes and tones, stumbling its way through its story until it gets to the undeniable pleasures of the last thirty seconds.

At first, it appears “Breaking the Fourth Wall” is going all-in on the Modern Family imitation – which in the episode’s early scenes, feel more like a contsraint than any of its previous generational adaptations. Elizabeth Olson’s been giving an impressively dynamic performance all season, but that all kind of comes to a halt when WandaVision shifts towards the mockumentary style; the episode’s opening scene imitates its source material to a fault, reducing Wanda’s existential exasperation into a bit that feels too rehearsed to be charming, and too superficial to be meaningful.

WandaVision Breaking the Fourth Wall

The more the episode loosens up on that format, however, it allows itself to have a little fun, and embrace some of the weirdness driving the charm of its opening episodes; Wanda’s incredulousness at being asked a prompt by an off-screen voice, and Vision’s astonishment that he’s in a field sitting down for a confessional, are both wonderful bits playing off the protagonists, able to mix a reflection on the warped form of shows like The Office and Modern Family into some of the more prescient dread building up underneath both characters. Both Wanda and Vision are stuck trying to find peace in their current un-reality, and struggling to do so: when WandaVision is able to play with form as a reflection to that, is when it feels like this show’s really firing on all cylinders.

‘Firing on all cylinders’ is not how I’d describe the hulking monstrosity that is “Breaking the Fourth Wall”, though: this episode, more than any other to this point, is wrenched between what it so clearly wants to be as a series, with the larger, more financially important concerns of the franchise. That means the Modern Family filmmaking awkwardly comes and goes between scenes; it also means we get a literal (and very weird) format shift during the episode – and also bullshit like Monica suddenly having powers out of nowhere, and Vision’s very convenient ability to snap people out of their Wanda-induced trances (save for Agatha, of course… but we’ll get back to her).

It’s also because “Breaking the Fourth Wall” lacks purpose until its final two minutes; most of this episode is spent talking to a camera or sitting in traffic, the allure of conflict sitting in for an actual one. Even things one would expect to be dramatically integral to the episode – like Monica RANDOMLY TURNING INTO A SUPERHERO – are left as narrative crumbs. That might be ok if it is only one or two plots, but every single beat of this episode in service of something To Be Named Later – that is not good storytelling, it’s just exhaustive pointlessness.

WandaVision Breaking the Fourth Wall

By the time we do get to the point of it all, we still don’t get any answers; but I’m not going to shit all over Kathryn Hahn’s shining moment, because goddamnit we’ve all waited patiently for it. Again, this isn’t a plot point that necessarily gives us any answers (nor does the music fit with the actual theme of the episode, but I digress) – but it kicks ass to see WandaVision finally let Agatha Harkness off the leash, setting up episode eight as the moment Where It All Finally Comes Together.

(not the bravest prediction, considering there’s two episodes left, but you get my point.)

There is probably some prescient plot detail I’m neglecting to talk about here; but for what WandaVision appeared to be aspiring to, it feels like the thread’s been lost in favor of Surprises and Universe References. Compared to the first two episodes, driven by the unsettling commitment to form and accented by occasional disruptions and oddities, “Breaking the Fourth Wall” lacks a consistent emotional tenor, driving the emotion behind the tragic love story resting just underneath the surface.

There’s certainly moments of fun to be had, but as WandaVision reaches its climax, the emotive core of the series has been upended by Marvel’s addiction to its own reflection, returning to the familiar formula of trying to build narrative momentum out of a dozen Easter eggs and faint, superfan-friendly nods. For a series with such high aspirations to combine themes of loss and trauma with unsettling comedy and warped inversions of iconic properties, “Breaking the Fourth Wall” is a disappointing devolution into the familiar doldrums of the Marvel Universe (including an utterly unnecessary post-credits “scene”, an absolute troll after 8 minutes of credits for each episode).

(for more on WandaVision, check out this week’s Mid-Season Replacements episode!)

Written By

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

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